Newark schools would get $1.25 billion in aid under Gov. Phil Murphy’s 2025 budget plan

A man wearing a dark suit goes to shake someone else's hand with a large crod in the background.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy presented his 2025 budget address on Tuesday, highlighting $11.6 billion to fully fund K-12 public schools. (Courtesy of Rich Hundley III / NJ Governors Office)

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For decades, Newark Public Schools hasn’t received the full amount of state funding it’s due from New Jersey to provide a “thorough and efficient education” for all students, as mandated by the state constitution.

But that could change in 2025, with a record-high $1.25 billion in aid earmarked for the state’s largest school district in Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. He announced earlier this week that this budget plan would fully fund the state’s K-12 districts.

The governor’s office on Thursday released state aid allocation estimates for every district, which showed Newark would get an 8.8% increase in aid over the current year.

Earlier this week, Murphy highlighted an investment of $11.6 billion for public schools next year. The proposed state aid — a $908 million increase over this year — would be Murphy’s final payment into the seven-year plan stipulated in legislation enacted in 2018 that aimed to fix inequities with the state’s school funding formula and redirected money to underfunded districts, including Newark.

Murphy’s $55.9 billion proposed spending plan will go through negotiations with lawmakers, in public forums and privately, before it gets finalized by the June 30 deadline.

During a news conference on Thursday at Charles and Anna Booker Elementary School in Plainfield to tout the proposed school aid, Murphy hinted that the funds set aside for schools could remain safe during the next few months of negotiations.

The proposed budget is at a “very good starting place,” Murphy said. “Things always move around between now and June 30, but a couple things won’t move around — I can say this with confidence — fully funding K-12 and expanding pre-K are there and they are in cement.”

His spending plan includes $124 million for preschool aid, as well as funding for other educational-related initiatives, such as expanding the free school meals program, allocating $2.5 million allocation for a literacy screening grant program, and providing additional money for student-teacher stipends.

Under the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, the state has used a weighted student formula to give districts financial support in addition to local taxes to address inequities in education seen statewide. That calculation changes year-to-year considering enrollment shifts and other factors. In the 15 years since the school funding formula was established, the state has not provided the full amount owed to underfunded districts.

Over the last several years, the Murphy administration has incrementally increased Newark’s state aid, with this proposed funding being the highest. This year, the district received $1.15 billion in state aid – up from 2023 when the district received $1 billion, and the year before that when the district received $915 million.

Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon said in a statement late Thursday that he hopes the proposed increase in state aid for the district goes “a long way in helping the district respond in a meaningful way” to recruiting and retaining teachers. The teachers union and district have been negotiating a new contract as the current one expires in June.

The state aid for next year would include $8.5 million set aside for transportation and $66 million set aside for special education.

Valerie Wilson, the district’s school business administrator, noted last March that the increase in state aid for 2024 was still $27.7 million short of the amount the district was owed under the school funding formula. Roughly 86% of the district’s budget for the 2023-24 school year came from state aid.

The district is scheduled to present its own budget to the community on March 27. The proposed historic-high state aid would come as the district faces the end of its federal COVID relief aid and confronts costly demands in 2025 — such as a new teachers union contract and aging infrastructure.

Catherine Carrera is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Newark. Reach Catherine at ccarrera@chalkbeat.org.

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